Consumers to Benefit From Federal-State Joint Board Recommendation on Universal Service Fund

WASHINGTON -- The Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service Tuesday     (May 1) recommended a cap on high-cost universal service support to competitive eligible telecommunications carriers (CETCs).  This interim step would help control the size of the Universal Service Fund (USF) while work continues to comprehensively reform the Universal Service system.  The USF has grown from $1.8 billion in 1996 to $7.2 billion today, and consumers have paid for these increases through increasing surcharges on their bills.  The following statement should be attributed to Susanne Guyer, Verizon senior vice president for federal regulatory affairs.

"The Federal-State Joint Board recommendation to cap growth in the Universal Service Fund will help stabilize the system and allow policy makers to focus on much-needed modifications to the USF program, including proposals such as the use of competitive bidding to reduce expenditures. Spiraling costs simply must be contained: High-cost support to CETCs alone has grown from about $15 million in 2001 to about $1 billion in 2006. Left unchecked, it will skyrocket to $2.5 billion by 2009 – with no assurance of a corresponding increase in service availability. Today's recommended interim step and ongoing future reform efforts will benefit consumers who rely on Universal Service programs as well as those who ultimately foot the bill."